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Author: Consumer Choice Center

Former Hungarian MP Zoltán Kész joins Consumer Choice Center Staff

Brussels, BE: The Consumer Choice Center (CCC), the global consumer advocacy group, has announced that Zoltán Kész has joined the organisation as a Government Affairs Manager.

Zoltán was the director of the Free Market Foundation when he entered Hungarian politics in 2015. He won a by-election as an independent, breaking the two-thirds majority of the governing Fidesz party in February, 2015. He was a member of the Hungarian Parliament and remained independent until 2018.

Commenting on his new role, Zoltán Kész said:

“I am really grateful for the opportunity to join the CCC. I have been familiar with the work of most of the individuals on the team, and I find their commitment to defending and promoting more choice and freedom for consumers all over the world very fascinating. I am looking forward to working for CCC and helping to broaden the political network in order to achieve more policy goals in the future.”

Fred Roeder, the Managing Director of the CCC said:

“We are thrilled to welcome Zoltán Kész as a Government Affairs Manager. He is an excellent addition to our growing team, and we’re confident that his immense experience and expertise will be instrumental in taking our work around Europe to the next level.”

THE COUNTERFACTUAL: What is WHO doing about ENDS?

Republished from Clivebates.com with the consent of the author

This section really reveals that WHO does very little other than publish prohibitionist propaganda. It is however worthwhile noting that its regrettable dependence on voluntary contributions leaves it exposed to major conflicts of interest. 

WHO does not pay attention to the evidence. If it did there would be much more discussion of trade-offs and possible benefits and a proportionate and more realistic approach to the risks. In fact, the report highlighted, the WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, was “made possible” by the private foundation of the billionaire, Michael Bloomberg, who coincidentally figures prominently in the report despite the claim that it is independent. The report acknowledgements include several anti-vaping activists, some funded by Bloomberg, brought in to do the work.

The influence of anti-vaping outsiders on WHO’s finances. Bloomberg’s foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, campaigns for vaping prohibitions to the extent possible wherever it works via the work of its grantees. Take the major Bloomberg funding recipient, the Union, for example: and its prohibition policy, Why bans are best. Bloomberg’s approach to evidence and data on tobacco is discussed here: Michael Bloomberg loves data. Except when he doesn’t

WHO is conflicted by the funding it receives from pro-prohibition Bloomberg Philanthropies ($23m). Then there is also the much larger WHO donor, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation ($592m), which supports a range of organisations hostile to tobacco harm reduction. In addition, there are also pharmaceutical companies like GSK ($12.3m) that provide multi-million dollar donations to WHO but take a hostile stance toward e-cigarettes. 

Note that this money does not have to be spent on anti-vaping campaigns for the policy position of the donor and the donation to create a conflict. The point is that anti-vaping organisations play a significant role in WHO’s finances.

Written by Clive Bates

The Counterfactual: What role do ENDS play in smoking cessation?

Republished from Clivebates.com with the consent of the author

The evidence actually supports significant effects on smoking cessation. The evidence is only unclear if you insist on looking away from it or imposing a far higher standard of certainty than on any other tobacco control measure. All evidence is unclear to some degree, but evidence from multiple sources triangulates to strongly suggest that vaping assists with smoking cessation and that e-cigarettes function as economic substitutes for cigarettes. This is exactly what we should expect.

Professor Kenneth Warner of the University of Michigan summarises the state of the evidence as follows:

Smoking cessation and harm reduction are compatible, not opposing strategies. There is nothing wrong with some of these smoking cessation measures, but there is much less evidence than WHO implies that they work at scale in real-world settings or reach the smokers who are at the greatest risk (those who don’t want to quit). But they are not alternatives to harm reduction approaches and they work in a different way. E-cigarettes are not primarily a smoking cessation treatment (though they can be that as well) but work as a much safer consumer alternative to cigarettes for people who want to use nicotine.

WHO overstates its own role in addressing smoking. Nor are they the same as the measures promoted by WHO at last year’s World No Tobacco Day – Commit to Quit – when WHO launched a year-long campaign to help 100 million people quit tobacco. A year on we have heard little of this and no progress report. A year later, these claims look like empty hubris. 

Written by Clive Bates

Consumer Virtue Signaling

Kimberlee Josephson says Gen Z should ditch virtue in consumer choices. Consumers should abide the trader principle which promotes progress. Patagonia bashes chemicals and oil products then use these very products. The thrift store is the most environmentally sound.

Listen here

August 2022

Hello there!
Our team has been working around the clock to defend you and your consumer choice! Let me take you through the last few weeks.

Just another misguided attempt to improve sustainability
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  is moving to essentially ban the commonly used pesticide atrazine. The current administration is weaponising for its political ambitions cutting down on pesticides, even if it is contrary to its own scientific advice. Bill writes that this move would increase food insecurity and prices at a time when American consumers can afford it the least. But do the environmentalists know that this ban would harm the environment?
READ MORE

Yael gives his thoughts on student loan forgiveness
Yael was recently interviewed on Hot Talk 99.5FM by host Joe Catenacci. He expressed his skepticism about Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, especially in the light of current high inflation. He stressed the importance of reforming the federal loan system, without which, we would just be endorsing bad behavior of taking out huge loans 
LISTEN HERE

We know just how to ease the plasma shortage in Canada

Plasma is a valuable resource used to make medicines that treat burns, immune deficiencies, and respiratory diseases, but unfortunately, Canada produces only enough to meet 13.5 of the national demand. 80 per cent of Canada’s plasma therapies are derived using plasma from American donors, who are compensated for their donations. David writes that if we want to decrease reliance on imports and increase domestic supply, we just need to start compensating plasma donors.
READ MORE

Catch up on the latest episodes of our podcasts

The weekend is almost here, and if you were looking into what podcasts to listen to, we have great recommendations for you. In the latest episode of ConsEUmer podcast, Bill talks about the crackdown on private jets in France and discusses a potential EU ban on nicotine product sales for people born after 2010.  As for Consumer Choice Radio, we welcome David back from his dad leave, and he’s ready to share tips and tricks for new dads. David and Yael also take time to rant about ArriveCan and Canada’s COVID restrictions and give some thoughts on alcohol recommendations. 
ConsEUmer Podcast
Consumer Choice Radio

Checking in on the bees

Bill has been on fire recently, writing an op-ed after op-ed. This time he’s checking in to see how the bees are doing. Turns out they’re just fine. As opposed to the widespread claim that bees are dying because of certain pesticides, evidence shows a different picture. The number of bee colonies in the United States has been stable for 30 years, and the regional declines in bee populations are often due to a reduced demand for beeswax or honey, which makes beekeepers shrink their supply of managed bees
READ MORE 🐝

Another great addition to the CCC team  🎉

The Consumer Choice team keeps growing! Say hello to our Junior Graphic Designer Elena Podaneva. Elena has worked with global brands across many sectors, and she is also focusing on applying her skill sets to social causes. We are glad to increase team #consumerchoice and fight the good fight!
READ MORE
That’s a wrap for this month! Stay tuned on all of our social media channels for more info on our current activities. If you want to support our work, please consider making a donation HERE

David Clement
North American Affairs Manager

July 2022

Hello there!
Throughout July, the CCC team has been avidly defending consumer choice across the world. Here’s a recap of some of our accomplishments from this past month!

The U.S. sports betting index is out!
Want to know which states outlaw sports betting, where and how consumers can place bets and who controls betting? We’ve got you covered! Our latest index ranked all 50 states according to how consumer friendly and accessible their sports betting market is. Download the full paper to know why it is so important to have sports betting legal!
READ MORE

The United States should fully embrace harm reduction
Harm reduction is one of the key pillars of President Biden’s National Drug Control Strategy, but those addicted to nicotine are not given a proper chance to switch to less harmful alternatives. Juul labs were recently denied the ability to continue selling vaping devices, much to the joy of public health officials. Yael writes that 40 million smokers in the US deserve the opportunity to switch to a less harmful product to satisfy their addiction. 
READ HERE

The CCC team is growing

We’re excited to welcome Tarmizi bin Anuwar to our team as country associate Malaysia. Tarmizi has extensive experience in Malaysia’s political and civil society movements and will use his expertise to defend consumer choice and freedom in his home country.
READ MORE

Proposed crypto surveillance rules will harm consumers!
Our crypto fellow recently published a blog post, evaluating the EU’s proposed crypto surveillance rules. He says that rules introduce regulations that are far from technologically neutral, are detrimental to innovation, and will harm consumers who depend on cryptocurrency services. And of course, he’s offering more consumer friendly alternatives to these regulations that promote innovation, protect consumers, and create a better ecosystem that will benefit all Europeans.
READ HERE

The municipal broadband network fairytale doesn’t have a happy ending for consumers.

A historic $65 billion investment has been allocated to bolster broadband throughout the country. Consumers want access to high speed internet at reasonable prices, but Liz and Yael claim that municipal broadband networks won’t get them there. Instead, they offer viable solutions to the common obstacles preventing consumers from accessing high speed internet. Make sure to read our latest paper on the dangers of municipal broadband!
READ MORE

Our second staff retreat in Tbilisi

Our team members gathered in the capital city of Georgia, Tbilisi, for our second retreat of the year. Working remotely from different countries around the world, staff retreats are something every team member looks forward to. We finally got the chance to talk in person, catch up, evaluate our year so far and discuss our plans and strategy for the remainder of it. I guess we could say we’re trying to live in the moment and that’s why we forgot to take a group photo. Sorry!
Thank you for your attention, as you can see it’s been quite a productive month! We have a lot of projects in progress, so make sure to follow our social media to be the first to know about them!

Luka Dzagania
Graphic Designer

Why Political Interference in Big Tech Continues To Be a Big Mistake

little common sense and a little historical context make it relatively easy to see that monopoly power concerns for Big Tech are blown out of proportion, since internet incumbents don’t last forever and even the greatest industry leaders can be beaten at their own game. Take for instance AOL’s AIM, which despite having immense market powercouldn’t maintain its dominant position indefinitely – and the same is true for others within the tech sector.

Gen Xers remember when Facebook replaced Friendster and Myspace, just as younger audiences have now replaced Facebook with TikTok and Snapchat. And while TikTok is garnering quite a bit of media attention, Twitch and Discord are poised to be next as preferred platforms

Based on these examples, the pitching of proposals in Congress regarding who can or cannot tweet seems counterintuitive, especially since Twitter ranks rather low in usersanyway. 

Yael Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center, notes that “If Congress succeeds in changing antitrust laws to curb tech power, it will not be to the benefit of the typical user and consumer online. Rather, it would fulfill the political goals of a coalition that seeks to curtail much more than mergers and acquisitions: certain political speech, movements they view as hostile, and products to which they would rather consumers not have access.” Indeed, having the government determine who can post or what can be posted is a more concerning matter than that of a private organization.

iven that government oversight tends to grow overtime, and that regulations rarely get repealed once in place, competition serves a better means than government interference for curtailing Big Tech’s bad behavior. Even the best of the best in the business realm go by the wayside in due time, which is why calls for antitrust action against Big Tech should be squashed and claims for content moderation should also be put to rest – despite the detestable deleting of accounts and posts based on political grounds.

Read the full text here

CCC joins coalition opposing Credit Card Competition Act

Dear Member of Congress: 

We, the undersigned organizations, oppose the inaccurately named Credit Card Competition Act of 2022 (S. 4674). The bill is a backdoor  price control, and extension and expansion of the Durbin amendment as  enacted in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (P.L. 111-203).  

As written, the bill directs the Federal Reserve to draft rules requiring credit cards issued in the United States to offer at least two unaffiliated  payment network options for point-of-sale and online transactions.  

According to the bill, the two networks may not both be Visa and  Mastercard, because they “hold the 2 largest market shares with respect  to the number of credit cards issued in the United States.” However,  should market share switch hands to new firms, the routing mandates  will no longer apply. The bill also mandates that the proprietary security of the credit cards function so that all networks are available for retailers  to pick and choose—consumers get no say whatsoever. In fact, the bill  never mentions consumers, nor how they will benefit.  

It is abundantly clear that special interest groups are using the  federal government to alter the credit card market to benefit  themselves and not consumers. This is textbook rent seeking behavior, anathema to free market principles, and should be  staunchly opposed by Republican lawmakers.  

Furthermore, we oppose S. 4674 for the following reasons: 

The bill does not promote competition, instead it dramatically expands the role of the federal government to  overregulate the market for credit cards. Today, requiring multiple dual-message networks to function over one card is  technologically infeasible. The cost of overhauling our current  credit system to comply with the mandates in the bill could cost  up to $5 billion.  

The mandates in the bill are so costly that more than $60  billion in rewards that consumers receive every year would  largely disappear. According to the International Center for Law & Economics, “86% of credit cardholders have active  rewards cards, including 77% of cardholders with a household income of less than $50,000.”

The bill authorizes the federal government to intervene in  contracts between private parties. The federal government  should not be interfering in private contractual agreements. This  encroachment will force small banks and credit unions to  severely limit or cease providing co-branded cards that millions  of consumers use every day. This is similar to how Biden’s  Securities and Exchange Commission is attempting to dictate provisions of contracts between private fund advisers and  investors.  

There is no evidence that this bill will pass savings down to  consumers. A report from the Government Accountability  Office stated that if the regulations in the Durbin amendment  “had not been implemented, 65 percent of noninterest checking  accounts offered by covered banks would have been free.” Since  the enactment of the Durbin amendment, about 22% of retailers have raised prices on consumers while only 1% lowered prices.  Additional regulation on credit interchange will affect fees and  interest in the credit market, thus increasing costs for consumers. 

Because the bill forces credit cards to allow access to all  networks, proprietary technology will be exposed to  competing networks, destroying incentives to create new and  innovative fraud protection and cybersecurity. As one paper points out, the routing mandates “largely undermine the  economics of networks and issuers.” 

The bill is a perfect example of Congress ceding its Article I  authority to the Federal Reserve. All the provisions of this bill  require the Federal Reserve to draft rules to carry out its  mandates.  

Based on the points made above, we believe this bill is diametrically  opposed to free market principles. We encourage all lawmakers to  oppose this bill. 

Sincerely,  

Yaël Ossowski
Deputy Director
Consumer Choice Center

WHAT ARE THE POLICY OPTIONS FOR REGULATING ENDS?

Republished from Clivebates.com with the consent of the author

WHO leads with outright prohibition as its preferred policy, though it has never bothered to justify this with reference to intended and unintended consequences or the rights of smokers to access lower risk products. Almost everything else it proposes functions as a de facto protection of the cigarette trade.

WHO starts with an anchoring bias: that the normal policy response should be the prohibition of ENDS. There is no scientific or ethical basis for this policy. Why would it make sense to ban the much safer nicotine product, deliberately deny law-abiding smokers better options, protect the cigarette trade from competition, stimulate unregulated black markets in vaping products, and draw young people into the illicit supply chain, and therefore into criminal networks? 

WHO has never assessed the costs and risks of ENDS prohibition, but relentlessly promotes it all the same. I have written about WHO’s strong support of vaping prohibition here: Prohibitionists at work: how the WHO damages public health through hostility to tobacco harm reduction

The arguments against prohibition are well put in this document by the consumers’ organisation INNCO: 10 reasons why blanket bans of e-cigarettes and HTPs in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are not fit for purpose.

International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations (INNCO), 
10 reasons why blanket bans of e-cigarettes and HTPs in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are not fit for purpose, March 20

WHO fails to grasp trade-offs and unintended consequences in policymaking. There is nothing in this regulatory package that shows that WHO has grasped the basics of policymaking in this area. The critical policy insight is that excessive regulation of vaping products functions as a barrier to entry and protection of the more dangerous cigarette products. The Royal College of Physicians (London) expressed this well in its 2016 report, Nicotine with smoke: tobacco harm reduction:

Tobacco Working Group. Royal College of Physicians (London) 
Nicotine without smoke: tobacco harm reduction 28 April 2016

There are other trade-offs: the protection of young people from relatively minor risks (e.g. experimental vaping) could have the effect of imposing major risks on adults (continued smoking or relapse from vaping to smoking). A further complication is that for some adolescents, vaping will function as a diversion from smoking. For these young people, the teenagers most at risk, vaping creates a significant health benefit.

Written by Clive Bates

The Counterfactual: Are secondhand ENDS emissions dangerous?

Republished from Clivebates.com with the consent of the author

WHO avoids a comparison between secondhand smoke and secondhand aerosol. Again, WHO uses the words “potentially” and “potential” to avoid saying anything about how toxic or how risky. In my own Q&A on vaping and harm reduction, I highlight three key differences between secondhand smoke and secondhand vape exposure: 

  1. The quantity emitted. Most of the inhaled vapour is absorbed by the user and only a small fraction is exhaled (15% or less, depending on the constituent).  In contrast, about four times as much environmental tobacco smoke comes directly from the burning tip of the cigarette than is exhaled by the smoker. There is no equivalent of this “sidestream smoke” for vaping.
  2. The toxicity of the emissions. Tobacco smoke contains hundreds of toxic products of combustion that are either not present or present at very low levels in vapour aerosol. Vapour emissions do not have toxicants present at levels that pose a material risk to health. Exposure to nicotine, itself relatively benign, is unlikely to reach a level of pharmacological or clinical relevance.
  3. The time that the emissions remain in the atmosphere. Environmental tobacco smoke persists for far longer in the environment (about 20-40 minutes per exhalation). The vapour aerosol droplets evaporate in less than a minute and the gas phase disperses in less than 2 minutes.

The main issue with vaping in public is etiquette and consideration for others. At this stage, there is nothing to suggest that indoor vaping presents a material risk to bystanders. But that does not mean there should be a license to vape at will anywhere. It means the owner of a property should determine the policy for their premises. A government override of these property rights can only be justified if there are material risks to bystanders or workers.

Written by Clive Bates

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